Evolution of Philanthropy in the National Park System

Point 8

The shift over the last 25 years from reactive to pro-active fundraising in support of our National Parks elevates this issue. Parks are as worthy a giving choice as libraries, museums, performance venues, schools, universities, hospitals, places of worship, and other major institutions. Parks offer comparable services to these societal institutions and merit recognition for their value to society as places for people to learn, heal, and connect at a spiritual level.

In the highly competitive philanthropic marketplace, parks and their support organizations have to be visible to offer the public the choices to support parks at all levels. This requires national, regional and park-specific strategies.

The parks and programs that make up the National Park System offer close connections with America's most inspiring places, people and stories. Among the stories we interpret should be the history, role and potential of philanthropy in our National Parks. This needs to be communicated effectively both in the parks and nationally.

The most basic principle for successful fundraising is that people give to people. Park donor giving motivations often identify the donor's contact with NPS park personnel and the commitment and passion the demonstrate for the parks they work in.

NPS employees are currently prohibited from personally soliciting/asking for donations. But they can play a key role in articulating park needs, priorities and values. Park staff can and do write and submit written grant applications. They can help orchestrate the creation of Park Friends Groups. They can work in concert with park nonprofit partners who do make the fundraising asks and receive and bank contributions on behalf of the parks.